(Excerpts from Steven Berglas article)
What should you do if you think you want to change and, like so many of your peers, put your faith (and a huge financial commitment) in a coach? Is it possible to develop an authentic commitment to executive coaching through sheer willpower alone? No. But what you can do is develop a mindset — i.e. new “automatic” cognitive messages — that will help you counter your own resistance to change.
What follows are the exercises I use most often to help new clients initiate coaching with the best mindset possible. If, prior to the onset of coaching you experience the attitude adjustments they are designed to foster, the change process should be profoundly less anxiety- and resistance-provoking for you than it is for those who dive in unprepared.
1. Ask yourself, “Cui bono?”
The best way to reduce the possibility of being stung by an executive coach’s constructive critical feedback is to remind yourself that it is (a) not ad hominem and as such, (b) comparable to the club pro’s efforts to correct your slice. To do this with ease, learn to employ the Latin phrase “Cui bono?” — literally, “as a benefit to whom?” — after each critique you receive. The rational portion of your brain knows that no competent coach would gratuitously put you down. Now you need to train the more primitive, more reactionary parts of your brain to think that way too. By making “Cui bono?” the mantra you bring to assessment sessions with your coach, you can learn to accept that any and all feedback from him or her is intended to be helpful, not hurtful.
2. Be sure you wouldn’t rather hire a cheerleader than a coach.
Many consultants and coaches know that they can build lucrative client bases by treating protégés the way Little League coaches deal with their pre-teen charges: Everything the kid does evokes a “good job” or “atta boy!”
The problem with an automatic “good job” reaction is that it is useless and often — even by pre-teens — seen for what it is: Balm for under-developed egos. An 11-year-old with burgeoning self-esteem would much rather hear “keep your eye on the ball” after striking out than “good job,” but if you want to hear cheering regardless of how you perform, caveat emptor. An ethical coach doesn’t bring pom-poms to meetings with clients, so hire to your needs.
3. Learn the difference between participation and commitment.
Having spent 30 years as a psychotherapist and coach, I can assure you that acting the role of a “participant in a change process” is not nearly the same as being committed to actually changing yourself. Many people claim to be involved in a change process when, in fact, they are holding their true selves in abeyance.
Coaching cannot change you one iota unless or until you’re really committed — until you have skin in the game. Before I work with a client who needs to make major changes, I share the aphorism my baseball coach once told me to drive home the distinction between authentic commitment vs. going through the motions: “There’s a huge difference between participating in baseball and being committed to it; it’s like a bacon and egg breakfast. The chicken participates in the breakfast. The pig, on the other hand, was fully committed.”
Since you won’t change unless you really want to, and nothing — not the highest-priced coach or public declarations about your intention to change (which, presumably, will humiliate you if you fail) — will help you to succeed, it behooves you to learn how to thwart your worst tendencies in advance of tackling change. This is what cartoonist/philosopher Walt Kelly, in his possum persona,Pogo, was referring to when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” If you accept this fact of life, coaching — and every other change process you initiate — will become surprisingly simple.